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Sunday 26 January 2020
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No help right after a disaster hits — ODPM

CITIZENS WILL have to be less dependent on Government and the State in times of disasters, including floods and landslides, to recover quickly, chief executive officer of the Office of Disaster and Preparedness, Dr Stephen Ramroop, said yesterday.

Asked what to expect in the hurricane season that began on Monday, Ramroop said the predictions indicate it should not be a busy season, but he warned that it only takes one bad hurricane to make landfall and the situation could be devastating. As such, he noted the need for preparedness.

Addressing the media following the opening of a workshop with stakeholders on flood and landslide response management at the ODPM head office in Tacarigua in view of the current rainy season, Ramroop said, “We have a dependency syndrome. We in Trinidad and Tobago expect Government and State actors to be at our doorsteps immediately after the impact.”

Such dependency was a problem, he said, that will affect resiliency.

He said the State has spent millions of dollars on rehabilitation on account of disasters, but preparation at the individual level, first and foremost, and at the level of institutions, corporation and regions could reduce this in the future.

Recently, some $400,000 were spent, he said, “to engage experts in disaster management to tell us what we already knew.”

In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, Ramroop said, there will be no one to help before the country and State machineries reboot.

The responsibility will rest on individuals to save themselves, hence the need for preparedness at the level of individuals, including children, he said.

Citizens need to understand that in the aftermath of a disaster the first 72 hours are very important. “That is the 72 hours that make a country live,” he said.

All persons including children in the family units, institutions, churches, temples, mosques, sporting organisations will have to make preparations for survivability in the event of a disaster.

Government and the State, he said, will not always be able to respond immediately to a disaster, especially if the national infrastructure and the tiers of management of the authorities were affected.

Such situations have happened in the January 2012 earthquake in Haiti and Hurricane Ivan in Grenada in 2005, which left those countries’ borders opened and the people reeling before recovery efforts got underway.

“In terms of readiness, we are much better than most. We are not the ideal. We are somewhere in the middle,” Ramroop said, noting that the workshop will look at coordinated efforts to step up programming.

While the focus of the workshop was on floods and landslides, Ramroop said the same principles to deal with them at all levels hold true for the impacts of other disasters, whether they be an earthquake or hurricane.

He noted also that the ODPM does not have its own disaster plan, but there was a national disaster strategy that includes a flood and landslide plan. There were some 27 contingency plans in place to deal with national disasters including drought, fire, earthquake, coup d’etat, among others.

Government’s focus on national disasters, he said, was a people-centred approach to dealing with all the contingencies.


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